Launch: The Vagabond Club & The Whiskey Library

The Whiskey Library

Have you heard of The Vagabond Club? With a tagline that invites you to get into trouble at their premises, you can expect nothing but fun when you visit. Housed in a 1950s heritage Art Deco building, The Vagabond Club is a luxurious boutique hotel in the heart of Singapore. Situated near to Little India and Kampung Glam, it is near to tourist locations such as the Singapore River and the Marina Bay enclave. For business travellers, it is also convenient since it is not far away from the Central Business District (CBD).

If you are wondering why I put up a picture that states “The Whiskey Library” and babble on about a heritage hotel, it is because The Whiskey Library is located right inside The Vagabond Club! Yes, this is not a simple hotel lounge; it is a full-fledged whisky bar!

The Whiskey Library

Bartending under the Golden Banyan Tree

The Whiskey Library is spelt with the ‘e’ as an attempt to differentiate itself from the other “Whisky Library”. Housed in The Vagabond Club, it serves as the hotel bar, lobby lounge and a whisky bar all at the same time. The bar counter has numerous official bottlings from various distilleries such as Penderyn, Bruichladdich and Macallan. It also serves the usual Johnnie Walker and Chivas. Cocktails are also available at the bar.

Independent Bottlings

The Whiskey Library also stocks many different bottles from independent bottlers. At the back of the bar, you can see a grand glass shelf stock full of independent bottles. The labels there are astounding. When I visited, I saw bottles from Douglas Laing, Hunter Laing, Gordon & Macphail, Carn Mor, and Signatory Vintage. These are the typical independent bottlers we know. The shelves also contain hard to get bottles from The Boutiquey Whisky Company and Berry Bros and Rudd. Importantly, as The Whiskey Library, it also holds stocks of boutique independent bottlers such as The Single Cask and The Drunken Master!

The Artist behind the Decorations

Artworks

The artworks in the various pictures so far portray a flamboyant and lively atmosphere, and it reminds one of the Indian arts. The artist responsible for the interior design of the bar is Jacques Garcia, a man fascinated by the Indian arts. His idea stems from the proximity of The Vagabond Club to Little India, where the Indian heritage is showcased in abundance. Hence, his designs incorporated Indian artworks and its heritage beautifully in every detail of the hotel and bar. From the elephant at the entrance to the various golden Banyan Trees at the bar, Garcia works with the landscape to create art within the boundaries of an old Art Deco House.

Some Interesting Artworks

The Captured Elephant and the Golden Banyan Tree

Some of the artworks in the hotel belong to the owner of the Vagabond Club. His passion for the art has given him a compassion towards local artists and he houses various artists under his “Artist-in-Residence Program”. You can find out more about it from here.

You can also find unique art pieces within The Whiskey Library, such as the two below.

Self Portrait of Jacques Garcia

 

The Lonely Fox Awaits

The artworks are different, for the first one is a video art (it moves!) and the second one a sculpture. Each artwork inspires in its little way and patrons to the bar can enjoy all the artwork within the lovely space. Do note that the names of each art piece are my own interpretation of the art pieces. They are not in anyway, representing the actual artwork.

The Whisky Library Membership

There is a membership which is offered to anyone who wishes to explore The Whiskey Library. Here are some details that I gathered:

Membership includes

  • 10 nights in the Classic Room at the Vagabond Club
  • 15% off bottles
  • Exclusive invites to the hotel events (whisky related, of course)
  • Buy any 2 bottles at the bar, and you can bring one of your bottles to leave it at the bar, without corkage or storage charge

Each membership cost $3000/year. Sounds rather steep, but that 10 nights at the hotel should be able to cover the cost.

The Official Launch Party

The Vagabond Club and The Whiskey Library held its official launch party on 26 October 2018 and it was a tad disappointing when I discovered that the only whiskies available are three expressions from the Old Malt Cask – a Tobermory 21 Years, a Glenallchie 16 Years and a Bowmore 21 Years. The bar had free flow beer, wines and champagne instead. It appears to have a very different crowd from our usual whisky bars in Singapore as well.

With the party officially over and done with, serious business resumed. We wish The Whiskey Library success and may their whiskies grow! Check them out at 39 Syed Alwi Road, Singapore 207630 or click here to go to their website.

 

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Whisky Event: Whisky Fair Takao 2018

The time of the year has come again for numerous whisky events to happen together, one after another. Previously, we wrote about Whisky Live Singapore 2018, and now, allow us to remind you about Whisky Fair Takao 2018.

For those of you who had followed us since last year, you would know that Whisky Fair Takao started the previous year in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. We had an enjoyable 2-days event last year, and we are heading back there again this year.

When is it happening?

Whisky Fair Takao 2018 is taking place on 1st and 2nd December 2018. The venue remains the same at 85 Sky Tower, but this year, the organiser has expanded on the fairgrounds. The fair will shift upwards to level 75 (it was held at level 74 last year), and a concurrent bartender fair will take over level 74 to showcase cocktails made by talented bartenders.

What can you expect?

The show this year is going to be bigger than ever. You can expect to see independent bottlers, whisky/spirits importers, retailers, private collectors and of course, the local distilleries, Nantou Winery and Kalavan Distillery. As for the whisky, you are going to have a tough time deciding what to drink as there will be a wide selection from official bottlings to independent bottlings of your favourite distilleries. There are also rare vintage bottles for you to try, such as Karuizawa, Port Ellen, Littlemill and more.

Masterclasses

Similar to last year’s offering, Whisky Fair Takao 2018 is offering a range of masterclasses to every participant. One of the most notable masterclasses is the one hosted by Tsuyoshi Kitakaji-san of Shinanoya, Japan. It will showcase six different lost distilleries whiskies, of which one is a Hanyu. The whiskies are all high-aged and rare. The other two masterclasses that we are interested in are The Mash Tun Tokyo Anniversary Bottling hosted by Toru Suzuki-san and The Shizuoka Distillery hosted by Taiko Nakamura-san.

Tickets go on sale on 15 October 2018 at noon, Taiwan time (aka Singapore time), and do note that you will need to first purchase tickets to the Whisky Fair before you can buy tickets for the masterclasses. You can find more information on the other masterclasses here.

Annual Bottlings

If you followed our blog, you probably would have seen our spoils from last year’s Whisky Fair Takao – a Littlemill 1988 bottle that only has 60 bottles worldwide. Bottled for Whisky Fair Takao, it was the creme of the crop for us. Similarly, there will be annual bottlings for 2018.

After the success last year, the organiser has decided to expand on the range of annual bottlings on offer. You can expect the following limited release bottles to be grabbed from the fair over the two days.

  1. The Whisky Agency Speyside Region 1976 41 Years Old, 46.6%, Sherry Butt – NTD $13,800
  2. Wemyss Malt Bowmore 1990 28 Years old, abv unknown, Hogshead – NTD $10,800
  3. Cadenhead Linkwood 1989 26 Years Old, 51.4%, Sherry Cask – NTD $8000
  4. Duncan Taylor Highland Park 2003 14 Years Old, abv unknown, Octave cask (2 similar bottles) – NTD $4000 each

It appears that the Speyside 1976 is worth taking a look, but we must admit that all five bottles are exciting. For us, we would be looking at the Speyside 1976 (of course!) and the 2 Highland Park in Octave casks. Interestingly, they also happened to be the highest and lowest in prices.

How does the Fair works?

For the uninitiated, the fair is not a free flow event. You pay a small amount to get into the show (NTD $450). In return, you can a branded whisky glass, a lanyard, dining vouchers for the hotel, and a miniature whisky sample. You will need to purchase “coupons” in exchange for the drams that you want to try.

The coupons will be in points form. Each point is worth NTD$50, and they come in both 1 point and 5 points. The drams will be priced in the points system, and you work out the maths on your own before paying for the drams.

They also allow you to bring your sample bottles to “tabao”, as there is no way to drink 30 drams in two days unless you are trying too hard. Therefore, go slow, enjoy and pack the most expensive whiskies that you want to savour back home!

Should you go to Whisky Fair Takao 2018?

If you have enough vacation days to spare, or you think you can fly in and out of Taiwan over the weekend, why not head over to take a look? More than a couple of us are going to Whisky Fair Takao 2018, so there will be a tiny “WhiskyGeeks contingent”. Given the amazing things that we had last year, it would be worth your time to go if you have a chance!

 

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CameronBridge – A Grain Whisky Distillery in Scotland

The reputation of single grain whiskies is unlike that of single malt whiskies. Many drinkers tend to regard single grain whiskies as inferior, which makes it harder for these distilleries and their parent companies to showcase and bottle them the way that single malt whiskies. Invariantly, distillers used most of the grain whiskies for blended Scotch as they are first and foremost, intended as such.

The Story of Haig and Stein Families

Cameronbridge distillery has intimate links to the Haig and Stein families in its history. The afore-mentioned families were two of the most remarkable distilling families in whisky history. The first record of a Haig distilling whisky was in 1655 when the church confronted Robert Haig, an excellent distiller, for distilling on the Sabbath. The story followed that his great-great-grandson, John Haig, married Margaret Stein in 1751. The Stein family had two distilleries in Kilbagie and Kennetpans.

Four of John and Margaret’s sons became distillers. They opened plants in central Scotland and Ireland. Their eldest son, John, founded Cameronbridge distillery in 1824.

Cameronbridge Distillery

The Cameronbridge distillery is the largest grain distillery in Scotland. It appeared to be the oldest too. Of course, it was not Cameronbridge in its previous life. Under the control of John Haig, it was Haig distillery in 1824 when it opened its doors.

When John built his distillery, there was rapid growth in whisky production as new methods of making whisky became available. The location of Cameronbridge was in between the Lowlands and Eastern Highland, and the limitations of law and technology hampered John for a short period.

When things changed for the better in 1829, John quickly installed patented Stein stills which his cousin, Robert Stein had invented. With the Stein stills, things looked promising for Haig distillery. Shortly after John introduced these stills, Irish engineer Aeneas Coffey improved the Stein stills and invented the patented Coffey still. John quickly jumped onboard, installing one Coffey still.

When Alfred Barnard, the famous whisky author, visited the Haig distillery in the 1880s, he noted that the distillery had two Stein, two Coffey and a pot still. Today, the Coffey design is the main instrument of use at Cameronbridge distillery.

Evolving Haig Distillery into Cameronbridge Distillery

41 years after John Haig opened the distillery, he joined an alliance with five other grain distillers and formed the Distillers Company Limited (DCL) in 1877. The company controlled 75% of Scotland’s grain capacity, which allowed it to dominate and eventually monopolised the supply. They also gain the competitive advantage to fix prices in the industry. As we are all aware, DCL was the predecessor of today’s Diageo. Cameronbridge continued to produce both grain and malt whiskies using their pot and column stills until 1929, before switching to exclusive grain whisky production.

After the switch, Cameronbridge proposed as a grain whisky producer. The distillery constructed a column still house with two new column stills in the 1960s. The third still came from the old Carsebridge distillery in Alloa in 1983, after DCL closed it down.

Cameronbridge expanded a few times between 1989 and 2000. It becomes the sole wholly-owned grain plant of Diageo after the closure of Port Dundas in 2010. The expansion also increased the portfolio of spirits produced at Cameronbridge as it takes on the production of Gordon’s and Tanqueray gin as well as Smirnoff vodka. The latest expansion was in 2007. Finally, in 2014, it also became the provider for Haig Club.

Cameronbridge Single Grain Whisky

Similar to most single grain whisky distilleries, Cameronbridge does not have many bottlings. However, it is the only one of all the grain distilleries to have its brand – Cameron Brig. In Singapore, we also have independent bottlers who offers Cameronbridge grain whisky under their label. Cadenhead is the most notable independent bottler to offer high-aged Cameronbridge single grain whisky to end-consumers.

We heard that HNWS is bottling a 34 years old Cameronbridge single grain whisky for its 13th anniversary. While we do not have many details yet, we are told that it is going to be one hell of a dram! We are eagerly waiting for our sample to arrive in the mail so that we can try it asap. We’ll update once we get it! 🙂

 

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